The Astoria Presbyterian church was located on 33rd street, near 31st avenue. It was demolished in 2010.
This church was built in 1922, and opened with a large ceremony. According to the long defunct Long Island City Star Journal “The weather was ideal as more than 1,000 members and friends of the church attended the event. All around the foundations of the new church were the foundation of new apartment houses and homes. Soon hundreds of families would be moving in.”. Astoria, at the time, was still a very new neighborhood. Apartment buildings and homes were being constructed and the nearby Astoria elevated subway (today’s N and W lines) had just opened.
The church peeked in attendance around the 1950s, and settled into a long decline in the decades after. Finally, in the late 2000s, a decision needed to be made. With less than 50 congregants left, the church was having trouble paying the bills and maintaining its various buildings (the church itself, a schoolhouse, garage and parsonage) and paying the utility bills. Estimates for maintenance and repairs were in the millions, though this number was hotly disputed. The decision to sell the property rather than try to save it divided the remaining congregation.
The building was ultimately sold to a community group that razed the buildings and replaced them with an elder care facility.
During that sweet period between activity and demolition, me and Timmy swooped in for some photos, early one September Sunday morning. Ironically this would be the only time I entered this church, despite having grown up a few blocks away.
Right about the time we entered on a Sunday morning, during normal circumstances, this building would be filled with prayer. Instead, it was left without a prayer in the world, and in some ways, it was the prey: just another building for us to swoop into and use for decay-porn photo prizes.
Much had been removed from the buildings, while much had been left behind to await its one way ticket to a landfill. Amid the ruins we found a few trinkets worth saving. Included were the 48 star US flag that was at the front of the church, and a bible with the church’s name inscribed on the front. Later, the flag & bible were donated to the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
This beautiful stamp, showing the building’s exterior, remained with me though and will be a part of my personal collection for the foreseeable future.
Few traces of these buildings can be found today. One of the main artifacts to be preserved was one of the stained glass windows, which somehow made its way to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art – all the way out in Utah.
Over on Broadway, this sign remains high on a street lamp at the corner of 33rd and Broadway (so far as I know)
The Lost Time Capsule?
Going back to the original Star Journal article, there’s one more passage worth mentioning:
“John MacKenzie made and sealed the box inside the cornerstone. It was cut by A. Hill and donated by Samuel Jones. Inside this cornerstone they placed a Bible, copies of the Star, Herald, and Post, names and photographs of the pastor, elders and trustees, a church manual from 1845, a church directory, a program for the cornerstone ceremony, coins from one cent to $1, medallions worn at the celebration of the Queensboro Bridge opening, and a church history. “
It is unknown, and perhaps even unlikely, that this time capsule was recovered during demolition. If it was, the Greater Astoria Historical Society did not seem to know of it when I presented them with the bible and flag.
For a few more photos, check out Timmy’s Flickr album – these shots are of course amazeballs and so much better than my usual shtick.